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September 2023

COC’s Robinson urges Supreme Court reform at annual CBC conference

By Color Of Change staff

As the U.S. Supreme Court faces a crisis of legitimacy, Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson will join other justice advocates for a panel discussion on reforming the nation’s highest court during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 52nd Annual Legislative Conference this week.

The panel, “Court Reform: Expand the Court Now!” is being hosted by Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who has been one of the leading advocates for court reform as the former chairman and now ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet.

Rep. Johnson has introduced legislation to expand the nine-member court by adding four new justices (the Judiciary Act). He also has introduced bills that would require the justices to follow a code of ethics, transparency and recusal (the Judiciary Accountability Act), and that they be limited to serving no more than 18 years on the court instead of the current lifetime appointment (the TERM Act). 

Robinson’s participation on the CBC panel on Friday, Sept. 22, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District of Columbia is just the latest effort in COC’s push to reform the Supreme Court whose decisions have rolled back rights and protections from the last 50 years. Hundreds of COC members signed petitions during the spring demanding that the court stop eroding people’s rights and that Congress fix the court by increasing the number of justices. To view the petition and sign, click here.

COC also is part of the “Just Majority” coalition, an alliance of 40 member organizations seeking to restore ethics and fairness to the court by expanding it. Robinson spoke in Houston and Philadelphia in June during Just Majority’s 23-stop nationwide bus tour calling for changes in the court following widespread public concerns over the court’s partisan, far-right decisions and the apparent influence of billionaires and corporations on the justices.

In recent decisions, the court has overturned a 50-year precedent affirming the constitutional right to have an abortion, upended affirmative action, shut down the Biden administration’s federal student loan forgiveness program and gutted voting rights protections. A host of recent media investigations also show that Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report luxury gifts and trips from a conservative billionaire for more than two decades. The reporting highlights the imbalance surrounding who is held to account and raises questions about why the U.S. Supreme Court is not held to the same ethical standards of financial disclosure as federal judges sitting on lower courts, legislators and executive branch employees.

“We have to look at all avenues for court reform, including expanding the court, if we’re going to get to a place where we can make sure that our … voices actually matter,” Robinson said on the June 16 Just Majority stop in Philadelphia.

Robinson was joined on the bus tour in Houston and Philadelphia by civil rights luminaries, advocates and lawmakers, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus; Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy; Wanda Mosley, national field director of Black Voters Matter; Shellie Hayes-McMahon, co-executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes; and Congressman Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania.    

Participating on the Congressional Black Caucus panel with Robinson are attorney and political commentator Bakari Sellers; journalist and commentator Roland Martin; Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for “The Nation;” and Angela Vasquez-Giroux, vice president of communications and research with NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

COC Policy Strategist Queen Adesuyi also spoke earlier this week on a panel at the CBC conference. That panel, “Higher Power: A Discussion of Statehood and Navigating Federal and D.C.’s Cannabis Laws,” was hosted by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, on Wednesday, Sept. 20.  

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